By Swami VidyanandA
With over four decades of regular sadhana, Swami Vidyananda has great wisdom and practical advice for those who want to develop a steady practice. She has meditated deeply on Sri Gurudev’s teachings on sadhana, applied them and discovered the depth of their ability to overcome obstacles. In this article, she shares valuable insights to enrich your Yoga practice.
Sri Gurudev gave classical training in meditation. He adapted the teachings to suit the challenges of our modern lives and minds, while staying true to their essence. He used to say he had two types of disciples: screws too tight and screws too loose. Half were wound too tightly and were very active (rajasic), others tended to be too easygoing in their approach (tamasic). He gave a variety of teachings to suit the different types of minds. I’m of the screws too tight variety, and I’ve had to deal with the obstacles that crop up in meditation (and life) for one with a very active mind.
For a rajasic mind, the obstacles to sadhana are things like: I don’t have enough time to do my sadhana, I’ve got too much on my to-do list and feeling tension, anxiety and impatience during meditation. Let’s consider each of these.
We all lead busy lives. How can we find the time in our already overscheduled lives to have a regular Yoga practice? I read an article by a medical doctor that said that you can cut through the physiological response to stress in 30 seconds, if you stretch, breathe and pay attention to how it feels. Do you have 30 seconds? Most of us can find 30 seconds in our day to do this—when you are sitting in your car at a stoplight, standing in line at the grocery store, during a TV commercial and so on. Any time that you find yourself waiting can become a sadhana. If you start doing tiny increments of sadhana regularly, it will feel so good that you’ll want to do more.
How much is enough time to allot to formal meditation? Gurudev advised 15 minutes, twice a day. A person who is convinced that real happiness is within will find that time in their busy schedule. But, if you can’t find that much time, don’t give up altogether. Setting a goal and failing is an obstacle in itself. I’d suggest you start with a goal you can really stick to (like 10 or 15 minutes once a day). Then cut it in half. It’s better to really do five minutes than aspire to 30 minutes and fail.
Once I heard a devotee ask Gurudev: “How many times do you have to repeat your mantra in order to reach the goal?” Gurudev replied, “Just once . . . with total focus.” His answer is emblazoned in my mind. Gurudev went on to say that all the other times you sit in meditation repeating the mantra serve to gather in the mind to one point. Usually, when you say your mantra, your mind will be running here and there—all over the universe and back again. That’s okay, keep at it. Gradually the mind gets more relaxed and focused. Then one day you sit and say the mantra with full focus and attain permanent peace.
I find this so encouraging. Never think that a short meditation is wasted—all it will take is one time. The more short meditations you do, the more you incrementally are preparing for that one time with full focus.
Now, let’s talk about the challenge of the to-do list. When you are facing the choice: sit down to meditate or get busy doing what you need to do, stop and meditate on that choice itself. Take a minute to ask yourself, “What are all those things on my to-do list really worth? The teachings say I am happiness personified. Nothing on my to-do list can add to my happiness, nothing I don’t do can take it away. How can I reduce the tension about my to-do list? I can do everything on my to-do list as worship, just for the fun of being alive in the universe.” Even if you get up after a minute of that meditation—because you have kids or you have to get to work—that process becomes a meditation, and transforms how you feel about your to-do list. . .
Read the rest of this article in the Spring 2012 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.